Daniel Kaluuya to Produce and Star in Netflix Movie ‘The Upper World’

     August 13, 2020


Daniel Kaluuya is making all the right moves these days, and now the Oscar-nominated star of Get Out is moving from The Sunken Place to The Upper World, signing on to produce and star in the Netflix movie.

The Upper World is based on an upcoming YA novel by first-time author Femi Fadugba that is intended to spark a series of books. Set in Peckham, London, the story follows Esso, who is caught in a deadly feud and on the verge of expulsion when he realizes he has an unexpected gift — access to a world where he can see glimpses of both the past and the future. Meanwhile, a generation away, Rhia is walking to football practice in 2035, unaware that the mysterious stranger she’s about to meet desperately needs her help to avert a bullet fired 15 years earlier.

First of all, this sounds great. Second, does that mean Kaluuya isn’t playing the lead, who appears to be school-aged based on the synopsis and the fact that it’s a YA novel? Or, are the characters being aged up to adults, and Kaluuya will be the one with this special gift? He could always be playing the protagonist’s father, too. And last, but certainly not least, I love the casual mention of Rhia walking to football practice. Perhaps in the future, more women will both play, and be encouraged to play football. Ideas like that one that are what I suspect piqued Netflix’s interest.


Image via 20th Century Fox

“Femi Fadugba. You may not know his name, but once you’ve read The Upper World you won’t be able to forget it. That’s what happened to me after producer Eric Newman introduced me to the book. I can count on one hand the times I’ve connected with a novel so viscerally. It’s a rare feeling, made even more special when you also have the opportunity to bring such a story to life on film,” Netflix’s Tendo Nagenda told Deadline , which broke the news.

“With Netflix bringing the film adaptation to audiences around the world, I’m excited about the impact the story can have,” said Fadugba. “I’d love to one day see teachers putting the book on their summer reading lists. I’d love to help create a world where when people talk about the new Cardi B, Giggs or CS song, they mention the ideas in The Upper World as part of the culture as well.”

It’s funny, I was just talking with a fellow film buff the other day after watching the Judas and the Black Messiah trailer about how great Daniel Kaluuya is. He doesn’t get the same attention that Michael B. Jordan does, or that Chadwick Boseman and John Boyega seem to, but Kaluuya is the one with an Oscar nomination under his belt. He started out on Skins before launching his film career on shaky ground with Johnny English Reborn, though he did turn heads with his performance in an episode of Black Mirror that same year. Kaluuya then booked supporting roles in the middling crime movie Welcome to the Punch and the lackluster sequel to Kick-Ass, but since then, he hasn’t made a single false move.


Image via Warner Bros.

Look at this list of movies! Sicario. Get Out. Black Panther. Widows. Queen & Slim. And if Judas and the Black Messiah turns out to be as good as it looks, I posit that this six-film string of projects is one of the greatest movie streaks of all time. Time will tell whether The Upper West joins that esteemed list, but I tend to trust Nagenda, who has excellent taste as an executive. Of course, I’ll have to wait a long time for that opportunity, as Fadugba’s novel won’t be published in the U.S. until early 2022, although UK readers will get an early peek next year.

Newman brought the book to Netflix and will produce alongside his Screen Arcade partner Bryan Unkeless under the company’s first-look deal, while Kaluuya will produce via his 59% Productions banner. Fadugba, who has an interest in quantum physics and a master’s from Oxford University to prove it, will serve as an executive producer.

I already linked to it earlier, but for a second chance to watch the searing trailer for Judas and the Black Messiah, which pits Kaluuya against Lakeith Stanfield and Jesse Plemons, click here. You won’t regret it. It’s one of the best trailers I’ve seen all year.

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